Crossroads by Carolyn #85

    I’ve been to some pretty shitty punk houses around the country, houses that provide a lifestyle only slightly better than what you might in the slums of Calcutta. You know the ones—bathrooms that make port-o-potties look luxurious, carpets and mattresses stained with blood, puke, piss, and booze, holes in the walls from fights that ensued over something no one can remember in the morning. People usually end up in these houses because they are cheap and the landlord is a greedy or stupid bastard that will rent to anyone and doesn’t give a shit about the place as long as someone’s paying rent.  That may seem like a good thing to some of you, but this winter, you’ll either end up freezing your mohawk off or paying a fortune to the utility company.  Fortunately, there are some fairly DIY things you can do around the house to keep warm and keep money in your pocket.
    If you are in the Midwest and heating your house with natural gas, you could pay 70% more this winter to stay warm.  For you math-challenged punks, say you paid $80 a month last year for heat. This winter you’ll pay $136 a month just to heat your house.  For you Northeast punks, you could see a 33% increase in heating costs.  Southern punks could see a 17% increase in electricity costs.  Depending on how cold it is this winter, how big your house is, and how leaky it is, you could end up paying even more.  But before you do something crazy, like move to Florida, try these easy ways to save energy and keep warm.

Turn down your thermostat.  For every degree colder you keep it, you can save 3% on your bill. I keep mine at 58 degrees when I’m sleeping and not home and 66 when I’m around and I’m totally comfortable. Programmable thermostats are usually under $100 installed and do the temperature adjusting for you.
Seal up the gaps and leaks around your doors and windows.  Find all the places cold air could get in (lighting an incense stick on a windy day will show you) and seal them up with caulk or weatherstripping.  It’s cheap, easy to install, and could save you 10% on your bills. If your windows or doors are fucked up, tell your landlord to get his or her lazy ass over there to fix it.  If he or she won’t, try to find some way to make them as tight as possible.
Hang blankets or tape thick plastic sheets over the windows.  Lots of heat is lost through your windows, particularly if they’re single-paned. Keep blankets and blinds open during the day to let in the sun’s warmth and close them at night. Roll up towels or buy insulating window snakes and stuff against the bottom of the window or door to help keep the heat in.
Don’t block the heating vents and replace the furnace filter.
Check out your utility’s website to see what rebates and free services they offer. Lots of utilities will give you rebates for energy saving products, like insulation, programmable thermostats, and energy efficient light bulbs.  Some will also send someone to your house for a free energy audit. The audit gives you lots of ways to save energy and does safety checks on your furnace and water heater.
Sign up for free low-income weatherization services.  If you make less than a certain amount of money, you can get free home improvements, even if you rent.  To find your program, visit
Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.  These bulbs use 70% less energy than traditional ones and last around three times longer.  Look for the ENERGY STAR logo.
If you have a second refrigerator, unplug it.  Fridges use a big chunk of a house’s energy. Use the smallest refrigerator you need. Also, empty fridges use more energy than full ones, so try to keep it decently stocked. 

Remember, energy companies are some of the most corrupt companies on the planet, whichever way you look at them.  While you are going broke trying to stay warm and keep the lights on, they are raking it in with huge government subsidies and still asking for more.  By using less energy, you are sending less money to someone lobbying for all the stuff that sucks in the world.  Driving less or using biodiesel or ethanol sends a similar message.  It’s better to be a little cold and cuddle with your dog or wear a hoodie, than crank up the heat and give your dollars to the enemy.